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Police visit hundreds of addresses in campaign to dismantle ‘county lines’

LAST week Avon and Somerset police visited 380 addresses where occupants are believed to be at risk from, or involved in, ‘county lines’ drug dealing.

The activity marks the latest stage in an ongoing campaign by police against criminal gangs running drugs into local towns and villages.

A police spokesperson said: “In the last year police activity has dismantled 21 county lines with the subsequent arrests of 45 people, the majority having already been charged with offences.

“A National County Lines Intensification Week led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) saw police across the country further step up their targeting of county lines operations.

“Avon and Somerset police undertook prevention and protection visits across the region, gathering intelligence and ensuring safeguarding and signposting to support for people deemed at risk of exploitation.

Organised networks

“County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs out of bigger cities into smaller UK towns often using dedicated mobile phone lines or other ‘deal lines’.

“Children, young people and vulnerable adults are recruited by county line gangs to move and store drugs and money, often exposing them to a world of coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons.

“Dealers may also take over the home of a vulnerable person as a base for drug dealing, a situation commonly referred to as ‘cuckooing’.

Using The Children’s Society’s #LookCloser campaign, which explains how to spot and report signs of county lines exploitation, officers also engaged with thousands of young people in schools and colleges, and visited hotels, bed and breakfasts, shops and takeaways, which are often used by county lines gangs to recruit or groom victims into criminality.

Patrols

“High visibility patrols took place around public transport and in public spaces such as parks, supermarkets and banks, where those involved in county lines may often be visible.”

Avon and Somerset Police lead for county lines, Det Supt James Raphael, said: “County lines brings misery to communities often in the form of drug dealing, exploitation and violence and we will not stop in our efforts to disrupt and close down their activities and bring those behind this criminality to justice.

“Our teams, including neighbourhood policing, patrols, roads policing and intelligence, are working 24/7 to target those involved and keep our communities, including those who are vulnerable or at risk of exploitation, safe.

“We also work closely with our colleagues nationally, including the Metropolitan, West Midlands and Merseyside police, to target lines running into the West Country and ensure that Avon and Somerset remains a hostile place for county line operators to exploit.

“We rely on information from our communities and urge people to come forward with any intelligence around drug-dealing, suspicious activity or vulnerability that may help us in our ongoing efforts to close down this harmful and dangerous criminality.

“For signs to look out for we invite people to visit The Children’s Society’s Look Closer campaign at https://bit.ly/ChildrensSocietyLookCloser.”

 

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